Still Playing School: April 2013

Spring Craft at Five Stone Kids

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 1 Comment
Five Stone Kids is one of our favorite hang outs!  E can play to her heart's content, D chills watching the big kids, then takes a nap, and I can make a few (uninterrupted!) phone calls, nurse D in a comfy chair, then join in the play!

I've recently been doing a monthly weekend craft there which is included with your admission.  This weekend we had quite a few crafters.  We made Happy Hooligans' rockin' birdies!

It was so interesting to me that the older crafters made 3D birds with an eye on either side of the head, while the younger crafters made 2D birds with the faces all on one side!

I'm so excited about all the ways we will be working with Five Stone Kids in the near future.

Photo credits to my BFF, Susie, since my husband was ready with his camera but (ahem) the battery died.
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The Great Cloth Diaper Change 2013

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
Baby D and I attended The Great Cloth Diaper Change at Om Pregnancy Center.  The annual event attempts to break the current world record for most cloth diapers changed simultaneously. 

We had 40 diapers changed at our location and 8,331 for the official record for 2013 worldwide, breaking the record set in 2012!  As part of the Guinness rules, Firefly Studios took a before and after photo.  You can click to enlarge and try to find baby D and me!

You can also see us a few times in this video by Ms. Diaper D:

 In addition to the change, Om Pregnancy Center was also hosting an Earth Day Fair with vendors and raffles.  Not only did we score lots of free stuff for participating in the change (Thanks to a Rockin' Green sample, I now know it really IS worthwhile.) but we also won a few raffles!

We will be returning to Om to pick up our prizes soon.  The hardest choice is when to go back because I want to make sure we take advantage of the parenting workshops and children's activities that they offer.  They truly have a unique way of bringing like minded families together in our community!

Photo credits:
Firefly Studios - Contact by email, Facebook, or Twitter!

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Baby Signing Time Class Review and Giveaway

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 5 Comments
We loved signing with E when she was a baby, so when we were offered the chance to attend a Baby Signing Time preview class on the same day that we attended The Great Cloth Diaper Change 2013 at Om Pregnancy Center (more on this later) we jumped at the chance!

We started signing with E at 6 months and she signed back around 10 months, so I'm curious to see if starting earlier with D makes a difference.  I think it will also help that E is EXTREMELY interested in sign language right now (spelling our family names out with the alphabet) so she will be eager to help teach him!

At the preview class, the instructor Joyce Edmiston of Xpressive Handz, started with a helpful handout about the best (respectful) ways to communicate with her since she is deaf.  Wow, what a great way to put people at ease!

Joyce started teaching sign language when the teacher of her son's preschool class showed an interest in having her sign with the class.  She then taught his Kindergarten and first grade classes!  Since she had been signing with her son since he was born (with him signing back at 8 months) she fell naturally into that teacher role.

Now that she is certified to teach Signing Time, she lead the class on Saturday.  We learned the signs for "ball" and "bubbles" while playing with both.  Joyce had toys for us to explore in a relaxed environment, signing as we interacted.  D was laying on his belly and he rolled his first ball at the class by pushing it gently with his hand!

She also provided parents with a wealth of informational handouts!  I loved reading through "Raising a Confident Child" which was full of tips regarding how signing can prevent bullying.  I also had a special friend and her sweet daughter in mind as I read the packet about using "Signing Time with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum" so I'll be sure to pass that along.

Classes will be Saturdays in May.

Joyce is generously giving away two Baby Signing Time Parent Guides to our readers!  The guide contains tips about when to sign with your child to allow it to become a natural part of your day, how to use signs to enrich development, and a glossary of 100 signs to get you started!

To enter, just leave a comment below telling us how you plan to or already do sign with your baby.  Then, log in to Rafflecopter to record your entry and learn of other ways you can earn bonus entries!

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Xpressive Handz gave us a Parent Guide, but the opinions and enthusiasm are 100% our own!
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OK to Wake Clock Review

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 1 Comment
Our children are early risers.  Most days they are both up by 6 at the latest.  As parents who love their sleep (and then lots of caffeine), we're not quite sure where they get this from. Someday they will be teenagers and we will be up first, drinking coffee in the kitchen as we discuss what time they got in the night before while waiting for them to rouse.  But for now, they wake us by climbing in our bed and cooing loudly, respectively, ready to go the minute they open their precious eyes. YAWN.

One thing that we purchased shortly after D was born to help E is the OK to Wake Clock by American Innovative.

We researched several options to teach E when it was time to get out of bed, but we decided on this clock for several reasons:

- The wake time AND brightness are programmable.  After we tried the clock for a few days, I realized that setting the green glow (that goes off when it is time to wake up) to a lower setting was a great idea for the days when she would sleep in.  It wasn't as noticeable to her as she would stir in her bed so sometimes she would go back to sleep.

- The biggest added bonus of this particular clock was the nap timer.  I can program in how long I want E to have a quiet time in her room (half hour, an hour, 2 hours) and she will have the consistency of the clock to show her when it's okay to leave her room just like she does in the morning.

- The clock has cute animated features like a winking, smiling face.  We love anything anthropomorphic in our house!

- It may seem like a minor detail, but you can change the face plate from green to pink and back again.  E LOVES her pink and I love that we can change it back if D wants to use it later (and would rather have it be green).

- Also extending the use of the clock is the alarm function that we can use when, maybe someday, we need to wake the kids by a certain time instead of teaching them NOT to wake until a certain time.  Oh, I can dream, right?

And now for the only part we don't love about the clock:

- It runs on batteries with no option for an AC adapter.  We use rechargeable batteries to help with the cost and carbon footprint, but if this option would bother you, too, you can check out American Innovative's handy Compare Products chart (scroll down and click the Compare Products tab) to see that the Teach Me Time clock plugs in to the wall but doesn't offer the nap timer.  Decisions, decisions!

American Innovative is generously extending a discount code for Still Playing School's readers to try their products.  Purchase products through their site for the next six months and get 20% off by using the code StillPlayingSchool20.  If you do buy something, please also comment here and let me know what you chose!    It's almost like we went shopping together (without leaving the house)!

We purchased the OK to Wake Clock at full price on our own, but then contacted American Innovative afterward to inquire about a discount code for our readers.  As always, opinions are 100% my own.
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Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum

When we moved into our neighborhood, the realtor casually mentioned that there was a creek with a walking trail nearby.  As the winter thawed into spring we discovered the true beauty of the Quittapahilla Creek.  We wander the trails often together as a family and my dad enjoys fly fishing when my parents come to visit.

Michael Schroeder, Executive Director of the Quittaphilla Creek Garbage Museum also found the creek when he moved here in 2008 (the same year that we did).   He explains, "I was naturally drawn to Quittie Creek, and in my walks along the creek was stunned by the quantities & variety of plastic garbage. So I started taking little bags along with me to collect all the junk I saw along the banks, in the debris piles, in the woods, etc. Some of the items were pretty interesting or unique, and after a while it occurred to me (while looking at that little corner of my backyard): what about creating some kind of "Garbage Museum" as a way to display this stuff and make a public statement about the deplorable state of our waterways here in south-central PA?"

We've been following the Quittaphilla Creek Garbage Museum on Facebook and Earth Day seemed like the perfect time to visit the non-profit as a whole family.  Michael has created what he calls "an effort to raise public awareness about how the accumulated effects of millions of tiny actions -- like tossing bottles & candy wrappers & bottle caps into the street -- can have enormous, planetary consequences, and a kind of ongoing act of political protest against this systemic, institutionalized madness."  

This artistic display of discarded trash will have a profound impact on anyone who visits, from adults to children.  As we put the kids in the stroller to observe what Michael has collected, I was reflecting on how our parenting decisions affect them, both by teaching them our ideologies and impacting their home on Earth.  From cloth diapering to joining a CSA this year, our choices have changed even from when E was an infant only 3 years ago.  Looking at these little faces daily inspires me to strive for a better future for all of us.

We stopped first to introduce our family to Mike who has a fascinating collection of careers.  He's an assistant professor of History, a licensed residential builder, and a nationally certified massage therapist.  He adds, "I grew up in Minnesota surrounded by lakes & rivers & so love water (my sign as a Pisces actually fits!). I've also done carpentry since I was a little kid, and this project combines my intellectual interests in issues relating to the environment; my skills as a builder; and my sense of dismay & sadness & frankly outrage at the way we treat our waterways."  

Then we headed off to his backyard which provided an I Spy game for E from the interestingly hung litter.  She was fascinated to find a teletubby plush, chapstick, a doll head ("I no yike that."), and medicine bottles.

Mike has designed the museum to withstand any repeated flooding like we experienced in the fall of 2011 when all of his previous collected work washed away.  "'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, garbage to garbage.' So I started over with the idea that whatever I built had to be sustainable, and be able to sustain a major flood. So that's how the Garbage Museum is designed -- all the "artifacts" are intended to simply float in the floodwaters, dangling from their fishing line, and when the waters recede, the garbage will remain on its tethers. That's the idea, anyway. We'll see if it actually works when the time comes!"

We will definitely be participating in the museum's events in the future.  Mike frequently posts these events and finds on Facebook with interesting facts and figures included.  If you are local, I can't encourage you enough to visit the museum which is open 24/7 to self guided tours. You might just be fortunate enough to run into Mike who I now view as a most valued neighbor.  It is a pleasure to know that, along with the beautiful Quittie Creek, there is a like minded and artistic environmental advocate in our back yard as well.
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Show & Tell: Nix Sidhe of Plight of the Living Dead

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
A warm, undead welcome to Nix Sidhe, who is an amazingly talented artist running her own Etsy shop and selling customizable zombie plush handmade to look like you and your loved ones!  

How did you and I meet?

We met at IUP, through the steps of Leonard Hall. A unsightly gang of rag tag punk rock kids all hanging out in the sun. It couldn't have been more perfect.

I think we should also mention that we lived together for awhile.  You were a roommate and friend during one of my most interesting life phases: college.  You inspired me as a strong, creative woman back then as you still do now.  What is the most important thing we should know about you?

I love myself. It's not always been easy and people haven't always been supportive but I live with my choices, accept my perceived short comings, and try to better myself and help others love themselves too.

Who do you share your life with?

I share my space and my heart with my boyfriend, Corey. I also have my dear siblings and immediate family and a few lovely friends. It's the perfect life!

You inspire me because of your business making Zomb-mes. Can you tell us about that?

My mother had bought me a sewing machine as a gift after I had dabbled in sewing when I taught art at a Girl Scout summer camp in Virginia one summer. I'm self taught completely and after toying with making bags, iPod cases, and skirts I knew I wanted to make a plush doll. The first machine made plush was from a pattern from Wee Wonderfuls.

Ah, I recognize Pointy Cat!  I love the material you used!  I made a plush from there, too, but it was Wee Bunny and unlike you, my efforts stopped there.  What did you sew next?

I then progressed to an obvious choice, a zombie themed plush.

This plump undead beasty had no name and was a mix between hand sewn and machine sewn. The next step was Zed, a true zombie.

The very first Zomb-me and the prototype I started to refine to get the Zomb-mes to where they are now.

The first true Zomb-me was the mail order Zomb-me.  

From there the creatures took off with the ability to customize them.

What was Plight of the Living Dead like when it started? How has it evolved to what it is now?
My store had a meager start. I sold a lot of handmade things; greeting cards, purses, little pillows with embroideries on them, etc. It wasn't until people on showed real interest in the zombie plush. The ability to customized the plush really appeals to people, knowing they can order a Zomb-me to look like their son, daughter, husband, wife, etc.

What are your challenges? How are you tackling them?

Right now, in my sewing I'm having issues with mass production while maintaining the unique look and handmade feel of the Zomb-mes. I've been trying out a few different small changes in the process to speed it up a little bit.

Ideally, where do you see your creative work in 5 years? How do you plan to accomplish this?

The future of Plight of the Living Dead is evolving. I still work a 40 hour a week job which takes up a lot of my time so for now it's a lot of balance. I'd like to see in 5 years this undead enterprise to be my main source of income. I'm working on some ways to streamline the process right now. Whether that means changing the actual sewing process or change the look of the plush its uncertain. I just want to be able to make these Zomb-mes available to more people. Everyone needs a Zomb-me of their own!

I totally agree!  I can picture how adorable our whole family in Zomb-mes would look sitting on our couch!  I'll just have to wait until the kids are old enough to truly appreciate the uniqueness of them and, you know, hopefully by then they won't be terrified by seeing Mommy and Daddy's guts spilling out of their clothes in plush form.  What inspires you about creating handmade items?

I love the feeling of making something out of nothing. The fact that I can create something tangible from the thoughts inside my head makes me feel so good. Then knowing that thing can make someone else that happy is so fulfilling!

Yes, your feedback speaks for itself!  Customers are truly thrilled when their Zomb-mes arrive in the mail! What advice can you give our readers in the field of your expertise?

Never stop. Learn more. I taught myself embroidery and sewing and there is always more to learn. New techniques, classic traditional styles. Read everything you can about what you love and try not to get too frustrated when you make mistakes, it happens to everyone and remember to learn from them.

That's great advice for EVERYone, including children.  It makes me think of Mister Rogers who was an inspiration to both of us.  I remember being with you the day we found out he had died.  It's beautiful to see his principles live on through you! Who are some women that you admire and why?

Ohhh! I love this question! Haha. I really love Peaches because she's so bold and in your face and never backs down from who she is. I also admire the writer Inga Musico, she's a feminist who writes these really inspirational sociology books. Lastly I think Julia Wertz is amazing. She's a comic artist and has a great sense of humor.

I'll have to dig further into her comics because her website is fabulously funny!  Thank you for sharing her with me.  What are your other passions?

I love being outside. Summer days spent in the sun and long warm nights. I like to read too, when I have the time. A lot of classic literature and non fiction. Although I always suggest people read The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which is one of my all time favorites!

Speaking of Pittsburgh, you and our former Show & Tell Feature, Addi, are both from the lovely city.  You also both share the decision to be child free.  This article was published recently by a mother who regrets having her children.  Some readers found it appalling, but I think it's an honest reflection on a decision from her life, much like we might look back and wish we had chosen a different career.  It is sad, for her, for her children, and because of the fact that society finds it so difficult to relate to women who know they don't want to be mothers.  I think it is a very respectful decision since parenting is a huge financial, physical, and emotional investment.  Would you mind discussing this with us?

I think I sort of always knew I didn't want children. Even as a child myself I wasn't terribly interested in playing with dolls or pretending I had a baby. Then in my mid twenties I knew I wanted to have a tubal ligation. It took visits to many other doctors before I found one that would perform the surgery. I've had a lot of mixed reactions from people on it, including my family but I know I made the most responsible choice for me.

Where can readers find you to learn more (IRL and social media)?

Well in the real world I live in Pittsburgh, the most wonderful city! I actually don't have a huge social media presence anymore. I've found in my thirties my time is so precious and the less time I spend online the better! I do have my Etsy, my personal blog, my craft blog, and a Flickr.


Read more about our Show & Tell feature.
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Cars Play for Letter Recognition

Yesterday I needed a quick activity for both kids after lunch, but before nap time.  E wanted to play with her daddy's vintage micro machine cars, so I dug out the masking tape to make some roads for her.

I put some tape pieces on D's hands and then his feet for him to explore.  This, of course, was only done under close supervision.  

Next, we added a parking lot.  It was great fine motor practice for E to line up the cars and park them.

Then, I remembered this post from Juggling With Kids using cars to learn sight words.  I adapted it to E's level by tailoring it to what she needs to work on currently: lower case letter recognition (especially the letters that don't look the same as their uppercase counterparts).

I would say, "Can you park a pink car on the letter h?"  We practiced the letter sounds by saying them while we drove the cars to their parking space, too.  The most realistic letter sounds for this were /r/, /g/, and /z/.  The /s/ sounded like he needed to put air in his tires!

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The Wonder Weeks Giveaway

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , , 6 Comments
When my babies are uncharacteristically fussy it really throws me.  I am a creature of baby-led routine (as much as you can be during the first year of life) so when we are doing what we always do, but it no longer works, I start frantically trying to diagnosis the issue.  The problem during that non-verbal first year is the multiple variables.  Digestive issues?  Sleep regression?  Growth spurt?  Teething?  WHAT IS WRONG?!

When E was a baby I found the answer that coincided with her clingy, fussy phases: The Wonder Weeks.

The Wonder Weeks are 10 developmental leaps that occur in the first 20 months of life.  Written by Dutch authors Hetty van de Rijt and Frans X. Plooij, The Wonder Weeks book outlines these predictable periods of learning which result in different perceptions of the world.  They also come with mood changes, fussiness, and sleeping issues.  The good news is they are much easier to deal with if you anticipate and expect it.  You can remind yourself that it's normal, it's a good thing, and there is a reason why your baby needs you more right now.  I especially love how Dr. Frans says you should never let a baby cry it out.  Hold them close, mommas!

D is coming up on his 19 week mental leap (next week!) also known as the 4 month sleep regression.  Right now we are in the throes of sleepless neediness.  His baby brain is getting ready to understand the predictability of more complex events.  The Wonder Weeks will prepare us for this transition by providing an insight into D's development as well as suggesting games and activities we can do to enrich his learning.

They also make an app for Android and iPhone that won the Coolest App for Moms award in 2012!  Be sure to check it out!

The Wonder Weeks has generously offered to giveaway 3 copies of their eBook from iTunes for our readers!  (To the best of my knowledge, you must have an Apple product and iBooks to be able to win and read this prize.)

You can enter by signing up for The Wonder Weeks leap alarm.  Visit The Wonder Weeks website and enter your baby's due date (since the leaps are calculated by gestational age, not birthdays).  Then just come back here and log in with Rafflecopter to let us know you subscribed!  You can get additional entries by liking Still Playing School and The Wonder Weeks on Facebook, sharing the giveaway, etc.(see all the ways to enter below)!

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The Wonder Weeks sent me a eBook copy for completing this review, but the opinions and enthusiasm are completely my own!
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Freezer Cooking Party

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 1 Comment
Lately, I've been very interested in cooking more real food and purchasing less processed food for my family.  This is challenging because dinner time prep coincides with post-nap, hungry, needy children in our house.  Add in the factor that sometimes my husband works late and dinner can be a time consuming and disappointing hassle.

I've been researching solutions to this, almost all of which involve the freezer and/or crock pot instead of restaurants and food full of preservatives.  Yesterday afternoon, I went to a friend's house to prep freezer meals (while drinking cocktails and wine).

She made a huge amount of chicken tetrazzini then froze it in batches.  She generously gave us two portions, one we ate for dinner last night (delicious) and one we froze.

And yes, I kept thinking of this:

Sorry for that.

So, that's one way to do freezer meals.  You can prep to fully cooked, then freeze, and you just need to reheat in the evening (from thawed or still frozen) on the day you'd like to serve it.

I made 5 versions of  "dump chicken" which just means that you will dump it all in the crock pot or casserole pan the day you'd like to eat it.  I won't be calling it dump chicken though because gross.  They are basically pre-marinated frozen chicken meals.  I made cranberry orange, garlic dijon, honey glazed, and lemon garlic.  I tripled one recipe so I had one for us and two for meals for friends who recently had babies.  You can cook it in the crock pot (8 hours low/4 hours high), in a casserole dish in the over, or grill it. I cut up tenderloins, so it will be crock pot or oven versions for us, served with brown rice and a steamed vegetable.

I also made two batches of the teriyaki chicken here for my friend and for our family, too.  This was also made with raw chicken, but instead of just a marinade, the sauce and veggies are frozen with it, too.  There is conflicting opinions out there about whether this is safe or not, but after some discussion with my friend (and the evidence that people are cooking yummy meals like this and surviving)

So in 3 hours, I made 8 meals and my friend made 8 meals.  There was also lots of time for visiting, soothing a baby, packing the food, and clean up.

I froze most of my meals in Pyrex because I don't like the added expense (and waste) of freezer bags.  My plan is to run the Pyrex dish under hot water to loosen the frozen meal just enough to slip it into the crock pot to cook.

We have plans to get together next month to make meatballs and maybe homemade chicken nuggets.  We're going to see how it goes if we all make the same meal, assembly line style, then divide it up.

Do you make freezer meals?  What are your favorites?  What is your method for preparing them?
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This Week's Meals - April 8 - 14

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
I've noticed a few things since I've started to outline our weekly meal planning on here:

- One prepared meal lasts us a lot longer than I expect.  I need to write in at least one night of leftovers per week, if not more.  Some nights one of us can have leftovers and the others can make something simple (soup, breakfast for dinner, etc.)
- I shouldn't try to make more than one new Pinterest meal per week unless I can cook them ahead of time.
- I need to look at our calendar to see what we have scheduled in the evenings, but also what we are doing during the day to find time when I can prep, cook, and clean up without disrupting too much of our schedule.  I also want to have a "plan B" time in case the kids have a melt down during my first cooking attempt.  
- Freezer meals are amazing and save our evening week night sanity.  I enjoy my family so much more when I'm not frantically trying to cook, eat, clean up dinner, then start bed time routines.  I'm making a spreadsheet of these recipes and also meeting friends for a huge freezer meal cooking prep party today!  More on this later.
- Ditto for the crock pot.
- Freezer to crock pot meals?  Double AMAZING!
- I'm still searching for more vegetarian options.  Do you have any you love?  I don't like meat substitutes  just lots of veggies!
- We can all sit at the table now as a family.  That's pretty awesome!

Monday - Orange Beef Stew (make double and freeze one)
Tuesday - Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups (make extra and freeze in several portions)
Wednesday - leftovers
Thursday - Cranberry Chicken from the freezer, vegetable side
Friday - Scentsy Party - easy, quick meal for me & E, husband is solo (leftovers)
Saturday - Dinner out
Sunday - Homemade Fish Sticks (freeze some), vegetable side

Breakfast - Raspberry Beet Muffins, quinoa fruit salad
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Rainbow Bunny Play

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
There are so many ways to play with this simple rainbow bunny game!  As I mentioned before, E loves bunnies so I purchased this game at our grocery store for $3.  You stack the bunnies on the platforms, roll the die, then try to remove the color you rolled with the little carrot hook.   The game is now marked down on clearance since Easter is over so if you hurry you can find it for even less!  I had even more educational ideas for these rabbits, though!

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Dear Dental Hygienist

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 3 Comments
Dear Dental Hygienist,

Thank you for allowing me to talk about Violet without shutting down or ending the conversation.  This doesn't happen often.

In fact, just yesterday at MY dentist appointment, my dentist asked how many kids we have.  I answered with three so she asked their ages.  I said Violet was two and a half days when she died.  The dentist and hygienist at that appointment clammed up and stopped talking without as much as an, "I'm sorry."  I laid there as they continued with the appointment thinking about how I always say two and a half days.  That extra half of a day is SO important to me when our girl wasn't expected to live possibly at all.  Responses like the silence I was met with for the rest of my appointment make me question sharing my girl with the world which I am aching to do.

At E's appointment today, though, you saw D and asked how E was adjusting to being a big sister.  I avoided the entirely honest response to this topic a bit by answering with a simple, "She's great with him."  The conversation naturally carried on and Violet worked her way in again (persistent little girl that she is).  I explained that E had another younger sibling who had died after two days.  For this reason, she has been an even better sister to D.  She was just so happy to have him in our home, joining our family for longer than Violet could.

You didn't know you were asking a loaded question.  No one does.  And I never know how I'm going to answer.  It depends on the day.  It depends on my energy, the time, my emotions.

Thank you for continuing to talk with me about her.  Thank you for almost crying.  Thank you for respectfully and compassionately asking about her diagnosis and defects.  I wish we could have talked longer.  I gave you one of her RAOK cards with this blog address. I hope you come here and read about how you helped make my whole day better by allowing me to share ALL of my children with you today.  Thank you for looking at her picture and hearing her name and saying they were both beautiful.

The world needs more simple kindness like yours.

Violet's Momma
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Show & Tell: Megan Kennedy, a Preemie Mom

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 4 Comments
Please welcome one of my best friends, Megan!  I invited her to share her son Everest's story because not only is he one of E's best friends, but he is also very inspiring himself.  He's a little fighter, but partially because he has such an amazing mommy.

One of my favorite stories is how we met. Let's talk about that together.
We met working at KinderCare. We had lots of fun in the "klubmate room" during the summer program. We made an instant connection and always found a way to have fun in the classroom. I remember one of the 1st days I was in the class with you, we had apples for snack, and one of the kids asked for another apple. You asked if he finished the first one, I walked over, and he literally had a few seeds laying there. I said "I think so?"

Ah, yes, eating apples cores and all!  We had so much fun (and laughs) with those kids and now we have fun with our OWN kids together.  Things have changed so much in 8 years.  I also love the story about how we had one "double date" when we were both pregnant, you with Everest and me with E.  Then Everest was born early and soon I was holding him while E was kicking him from inside my tummy.  They've been best friends since before they were born!

Our families are very close.  We love all the Kennedys!  Can you introduce us to everyone? Who do you share your life with?

I share my life with my husband Jason, Everest who is 3.5, and Irelyn who is 2. We have 2 boxers (Blake and Laney) who are also a big part of our lives. We are lucky to have amazing family close by, and amazing friends who we think of as our family as well.

What is the most important thing we should know about you?

I am the mother I am today due to the circumstances Everest endured in his early days. I always thought I knew how I would parent, but things with him were so different and I had to adapt. I remember on numerous occasions people saying "you handle things so well!" But the way I thought about it was we were given these conditions and I had to "make the best of it". I learned so much from Everest.

People also tell me that I am so strong because of what I've enduring losing Violet.  I always think, "What choice do I have?" but in reflecting on this comment applying to you, it makes more sense.  You ARE inspiring because of all you've endured with Everest. You stay so positive and enrich his life in such a loving way. Can you tell us about his story?

Everest was born at 29 weeks and 5 days due to severe pre-eclampsia. I went into the doctor with a persistent headache, and my BP was high 140/95, and they sent me home with orders of bed rest, and a 24 hour urine collection. When they got the results, it was not good, and I was admitted. After further testing, it was determined that the pre-eclampsia was getting worse by the hour and it was best to induce. He had basically every preemie issue he could have had in the NICU. He had 2 holes in his heart (PDA and VSD), severe respiratory distress which resulted in chronic lung disease/bronchopulmonary dysplasia, he developed a bilateral intraventricular hemorrhage (brain bleed) which resulted in hydrocephalus and PVL (white matter damage in the brain). He was 12 days old when he had a reservoir placed to drain the excess fluid off of his brain. His head was growing at 2cm's a day and they were draining 10cc's of fluid each day. Shortly after that he had a full VP shunt placed. He also developed a case of NEC (necrotising enterocolitis), which is a perforation of the bowel. He spent 11 weeks in the NICU.

Everest then

I will never forget the privilege of meeting him in the NICU for the first time. He has come so far. What has that journey been like? What support have you received?

Everest was such a sick little boy when he was born.  He was so tiny and we were afraid to touch him. It is truly amazing where he is today. The 1st year of his life he did "nothing."  He couldn't sit or crawl and his therapists were worried about how far he would go. He had 2 shunt infections and a tethered cord surgery in that 1st year and after that he took off. He learned to sit and crawl in a matter of weeks at 14/15 months. He had the most amazing doctors and nurses and the best therapists for PT and OT from the time he came home from the NICU until he graduated at age 3. We have the most supportive family and friends who have all given us such encouragement too.

Everest now!

Ideally, where do you Everest in 5 years? 10 years? How do you plan to help him accomplish this?

Ideally I just want Everest to feel "normal" compared to his peers in school, and not struggle every day. Due to his brain damage and the case of CP and just being premature he has higher chances of having developmental and learning disabilities  I treat him normally, "make' him do things that are tough for him to do so he doesn't feel like he needs help all the time. As he gets older, I just hope to be supportive and helpful in anything he needs. 

What are your other passions?

I love to help out with the Children's Miracle Network which has become a huge passion of mine since having Everest. We share his story and help other families like ours who are at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. It is an amazing organization that raises money for new equipment, toys, support for families in really tough situations with their kids.

Can you tell us about the Basket Bingo you are organizing for CMN?

I am very excited about the Thirty One Bingo we are holding on April 13th to support the Children's Miracle Network. There will be 20 games of regular bingo and a blackout game, plus raffles and 50/50 drawing, and a bake sale. The bags are all filled with wonderful things like photography gift cards, bath and body supplies, and summer fun toys! It is $20 ahead of time or $25 at the door. All proceeds will be donated to CMN in honor of Everest.

Who are some women that you admire and why?

It is so cliche to say, but I truly admire my mom. She was a single mother to my brother and I and she handled it with such grace. She was always there for us and worked hard to support us. My grandmother (I call her Ammy pronounced Am-ME) is also a huge role model. She is 79 years old, still lives on her own, owns her own business and works full time. She took care of my grandpa who was bed ridden for the majority of my life until he passed and she took care of her mother never putting her in a home. They are both always there for me and my kids and I hope to be as good of a person as they both are.

What advice can you give to other parents of preemies?
My biggest advice to new preemie parents is to make sure to take care of yourself too. Eat, drink, sleep. Its HARD, but if you take care of yourself you are able to focus better on baby. Keep a camera at the bedside for nurses to take pics when you are not there! When you come home, try to let things go, and just enjoy time with baby! It is so easy to stress about every little thing, but they grow so fast!

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The Simultaneousness of Grief

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 3 Comments
I remember reading Erin's blog right after Violet died.  She was writing about the educational and enriching activities that she always does with her son, Chase.  I remember waiting every day for her to write about her other son, Christian, the one she lost.  I wanted to read about grief while I was grieving.  I wanted to know how the journey was a year later.  Yet, she was cooking, crafting, teaching.  I marveled that she was living a full and happy life.

Now that I am further along in my own grief, I realize that she WAS showing me exactly what life can be like a year later.

Violet would be 17 months old tomorrow.  I had a difficult time this weekend imagining the brown haired girl she would be, toddling along, finding all the purple Easter eggs.  I still have days that make it hard to breathe.  Sometimes I write about them, but sometimes I don't.  I always want to talk about her.  Instead I attempt to find ways to incorporate her into our lives seamlessly.

I am simultaneously grieving and mothering all three of my children at all times.  I need the balance of three.

I am holding, missing, loving, laughing, feeding, aching, crafting, bathing, grieving, nurturing, smiling, talking, healing, writing, playing, remembering.

Before Violet was born, I heard this song and quoted on Facebook, "What makes a falling star go by?  Why does it fall and where does it go? And how does it make that glittery glow?"  I was anticipating her arrival as my shooting star, brief, beautiful, then gone.

As I'm writing this D is napping.  E is upstairs playing.  Sesame Street is left on the abandoned television.  This song comes on.  Maybe it's a coincidence.  Or maybe, as I am mothering the other two in my daily life, she is reminding me that she's not that far away either.
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